Sail Cuba – Travel

We are full time sailors that put together awesome sailing flotillas for our amazing sailing friends. On the side … we make travel suggestions, because we’ve probably been there. And if we come across a deal, we will forward to the group and update here asap.

Passports in order?  Six months validity is always recommended for international travel.  Long before departure we will be collecting your info and issuing your travel papers including your Visas.

Dates …
Your dates will be determined by which land tour you choose.  The basic tour is included.
Click for deets on both Tours.
March 1 – 9, 2019 is the schedule for the included Basic Tour.  Our included tour departs from Havana at 0900 on March 1 and takes us, with stops, to cool little Cienfuegos.    I encourage you to fly in the day before at least and book a room to acclimate and see amazing Habana Vieja (old Havana).  We board the boats on the evening of March 2, by 1800.  For 7 days we enjoy amazing island destinations around the Cienfuegos archipelago.  We return to the dock the night before and disembark the boats at Cienfuegos by 1000 on March 9.  
February 26 – March 11, 2019 is your schedule if you are doing the long tour.  Click the tours link above for details.

Flights …
The fly-in airport is Havana HAV.  Our June 1 tour takes us to the yachts and the southern coastal of Cienfuegos.  We disembark the yachts the morning of June 9.  The closest fly-out airport is Santa Clara SNU, about an hour and a half away.   But most will take the 2+ hour taxi back to Havana to fly out.  We can get together for group taxis.  If you’re attempting to fly out on disembark day, do choose a late afternoon or evening flight. shows round trips MIA – HAV for under $300.  Other direct flights to HAV to/from Orlando, Ft Lauderdale, JFK, Houston and Atlanta.  When booking, the airline will ask you which license you are traveling under.  We are traveling under the “educational activities” license.  If  they ask for more precision, check “person to person.” Contact your travel agent if you prefer someone overseeing your arrangements.
If you have time after the cruise, Cienfuegos is cool and Trinidad is cooler.  I have not been to Santa Clara, the airport looks far from town.  If you go there, say hey to Che for me.  

Rooms …
Walking around 428 year old Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is the main attraction in Havana.  I prefer to stay right there, close to or on Parque Central.  Two hotel options;  nice Hotel Inglaterra & very nice Iberostar Parque Central.  There are others but these are high end, right on the park, offer breakfast and have their own internet (very unusual in Cuba).  You can book IPC directly or use or  Our tour pick up hotel is Melia Cohiba.  It is fine and on the coast but requires a taxi to get to Vieja.  

Some cool Bed and Breakfasts can be found within Vieja. is good source for them.  Tania & I are booking a larger one and may have some spare bunks, shoot me a note if interested.

In Cienfuegos, we like to be near Parque Jose’ Martin.  Click on ‘map view’ on your booking site and you’ll find it.  Note that San Fernando street from the park to the main street Paseo El Prado is the walking promenade and the coolest part.  I found an Airbnb last time overlooking it.  The only hotel I know there is the Hotel La Union.  It is nice and managed by Melia Hotels, same outfit that runs our pick up hotel by Havana, Melia Cohiba.  

Entry …
Next to the gate when leaving the US, you will first visit the Cuban visa kiosk where your visa will be confirmed.  Then you can board.
Upon arrival in Havana, Cuban customs is pretty cool.  All agents have matching khaki uniforms though the gals are allowed some individuality in their selection of fishnets.  To be allowed into Cuba, you need a good passport, an onward (return) ticket and a tourist card (your visa) provided by our agent AC Journeys.  Write clearly when you fill out your tourist card or you will be buying another one.  Different sources say different things but here’s some tips on what you can bring.  Two bottles of booze looks ok.  To be safe, I wouldn’t go too heavy on communication equipment.  For decades all was illegal.  They let me bring in a couple handheld vhfs last 2 times but I was pulled aside to fill out some paperwork – model, serial # etc.  Note that anything that says GPS on it will at least hold you up.  They kept my satellite messenger last March 2017.  They said because it had a GPS in it.  I may have gotten it through if it was packed in my checked luggage.  I was given the option to jump through extensive hoops to get it back.  I know what you’re thinking, the most accurate gps in the world was in my cel phone.  Cel phones are totally ok 😉

Sound advice …
“It is important to note that Cuba tends to be quite different to other areas of the world you may have traveled in. Buildings and infrastructure are generally old and may not have been maintained to the highest standard. Elevators, internet and A/C often break down, things happen very slowly and water pressure and hot water can be minimal (in lower end hotels). Cuba is an amazing place to visit but to fully enjoy and relax, western expectations should be left at home and your sense of adventure should be your guide.”

Outside tourist areas, you shouldn’t drink tap water.  Order bottled, “con gaz” or “sin gaz”, carbonated or without gas.  We were fine last time brushing teeth etc.  It is best to eat well-cooked meat.  The seafood is safe, but ciguatera exists in the Caribbean.  It is usually in reef fish, which restaurants know not to serve. Fruits and vegetables are organic throughout the country as Cuba cares about their people.

Internet …
In Cuba, only the nice hotels have internet.  Your other option is to walk to a public square.  You’ll know you found the right place because it will be the only place you’ll see phones being used.  As you enter the square a guy will walk up and offer you an internet card “tar-hay-tah de telephono”.  They are 2 or 3 cuc there, 5 or more at your hotel.  Localz tip:  shutting off wifi should disconnect you.  To be sure you don’t lose minutes, you can log off at

Cel Phones …
Ours worked fine for calls and text but data access was limited.  I quickly learned that 90% of my phone use involves data.  Ask your provider for a Cuban plan if it saves you money.  All Tmobile plans are $2 calls, 50 cent texts out, free in.  And it says $2 mb data so I shut off cellular data in settings.  Our apps consume tons of data in the background so toggle most of them off if you plan to use the spendy roaming data.  And you can get a local sim or even rent a phone at a Cubacel/Etesca shop.  I used public internet, see above.  More info:

Cash & Credit Cards …
Credit cards from US banks still don’t work well in Cuba.  It’s coming, but you still may not find a store or atm where US cards work in the machine.
US banks cannot issue the local money, CUC.  Bringing dollars is fine, I usually bring euros.  Newer notes are better.  Bring enough cash to cover your stay.  You can bring in up to 5,000 USD without declaring.  Because of the embargo, you’ll save some exchange cost if you bring euros instead of dollars.  The tourist money is the CUC, roughly equivalent to the euro.  You can exchange money at the airport, at bigger hotels, at banks and at the street Cadecas (change houses).  The rate is fixed so no shopping necessary which is nice.  The exchange lines at the airport can be long (upstairs can be shorter).  My last cabbie took dollars and I changed at my little hotel.  The locals money is the CUP (different than tourist CUC).  Using it may save some pennies but the exchange is complicated.

Insurance …
Like most countries, Cuba provides free medical for it’s citizens. It does now require medical insurance for travelers. Your airline almost always includes it, you can contact them if concerned.  If it is part of your ticket price than keep your boarding pass as proof.  If your personal insurance covers Cuba, you can bring a printed declaration.  Or, you can buy travel medical insurance: is comprehensive. is cheap.  Worst case they ask you to buy it upon arrival.  

Art …
When you go to buy art, make sure they can provide the ‘official seal’ at the point of sale. If they cannot provide, you could have problems exiting Cuba with it.  No one asked for my ‘official seal’ for the rad Cuba license plate art I got.  They might mean real art.

US Embassy …
If still open, is on the coast by Havana.
Located:  Calzada between L & M, Vedado
Local phone number +53-7-839-4100.
US State Department back home is +1-202-501-4444.

Time Zone …
Havana and Cienfuegos are on Eastern Time or EST with no daylight savings, or GMT-5.

Departing Cuba …
At departure, Cuban officials will ask you for the Tourist Card (we say visa) they stamped on arrival. They tuck it in your passport, leave it there. If you lose it, it could take  hours to get it replaced.  On arriving to the US, immigration may ask you for the travel documents that you are getting from AC Journeys.  I was not asked anything interesting when I returned to the US in March.

Maps …
If your smartphone allows ‘offline maps’, you might download the one for Cuba.  I prefer the app for this.  No data connection required once downloaded.

Tipping …
Is not mandatory but 10% is the right way to reward good service people like waiters.  It’s not a lot of money to us but it is huge to them.  And if you think your local guides and drivers have done a good job it’s good to hand them a few bux at the end.  The amount depends on the quality and length of the service. At the end of your sailing Adventure, if you felt your captain did an outstanding job, tip her or him.  No luxury-yacht size tips here, $50-100 get’s it done.

Laundry …
Your hotel may offer it and your captain can show you how to bucket clean on the swimstep of the cat.  You might bring a few clothespins.

Travel Guide …
I recommend bringing a paper guide book to Cuba to use. Our phones will not have data and instant access to … everything.  My favorite is Lonely Planet.

Need tourist ratings advice for hotels, restaurants, etc.?

Intro, some good info on traveling in Cuba:

Cuba Faqs,

Cuban Customs website,

Carbon Offset for this Adventure?  We pay to offset all of the estimated yacht emissions for the flotilla and captain flights.  We encourage you to offset your flights.  We like; most do the windmills and the solar but Cotap also helps small communities develop sustainably for a green future

If you have any questions, email/call/text/carrier pigeon,
Captain Woody


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